Back to School: Nursing Leadership on Climate Solutions in the Classroom

By Rebecca Rehr

Nurses are the most trusted leaders on climate solutions. As the 2021 school year starts, we have an incredible opportunity to support youth leadership on climate action, and incorporate climate education and health equity into curricula. Tune into this episode of Let’s Talk Climate, co-hosted with the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) with special guest host, Dr. Katie Huffling, Executive Director of ANHE, as she is joined by Linda Mendonça, an ANHE Environmental Health Nurse Fellow 2019-2020 and President of the National Association of School Nurses and Andrea Lapuz, member of the ANHE Student Nurse Committee and active member of the National Student Nurses’ Association. 

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When she talked about incorporating sustainability into her nursing education, Andrea recalled an undergraduate class where she learned that “climate policy is really just health policy” and we can use that to protect our own health. The National Student Nurses’ Association’s Population and Global Health Committee has an entire “Climate Action” section on their website. Katie recalled being at the NSNA annual meeting when they passed their climate change resolution and said, “It was really exciting to see so many of the student participants just really excited about that resolution and I think it passed almost unanimously.”

Linda gave, “Any time you want to introduce something new to somebody in their practice, make it relevant to their practice… Particularly in school nursing…looking at the school’s physical environment I think is one way to get them particularly involved.” She continued with the specific example of disaster preparedness. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of disasters like floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. School nurses have the opportunity to protect students in their schools by staying up to date on the latest in disaster preparedness. 

“We’re supposed to be advocating for our patients and trying to provide equitable healthcare and I think where it needs to step up and ramp up is just to incorporate [climate change] into every class in your nursing profession…I think every field of nursing needs to take responsibility for their role in promoting climate resilience and equitable healthcare.” – Andrea

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

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